Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review--What If? #20

Fair warning: there is intense comic book geekery ahead.

So you thought my deconstructive analysis of the epic that is the Kree-Skrull War was over?

Yeah. I did too. Then I came across issue #20 of What If? in the used bin of the comic book store.

Unless you're a Marvel Comics devotee, you likely are unfamiliar with the What If? series. Essentially, it was something of a masturbatory exercise for the writers and artists of Marvel as they got to monkey around with their own canon and continuity. What if a major character had made a different decision at a pivotal time? For example, what if Captain America had not decided against running for president? What if it had somehow been Aunt May that got bitten by the radioactive spider and not Peter Parker? I call this writing exercise "masturbatory" as it typically allowed the writers to hatch really morbid plots where major characters died and things could go south in a hurry while the actual canon and continuity remained untouched. Things rarely ended well for those characters involved in What If?

Such was the case with #20: "What if the Avengers fought the Kree-Skrull War without Rick Jones?"

I just don't have it in me tonight to recapitulate the entire Kree-Skrull War story arc, so click the link above to follow it through for yourself. Suffice it to say that the conflict was in part resolved by Rick Jones attaining great mental powers from the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree. Well, what if things had not turned out that way?

Back in part 8 of the saga, Rick made a rather brash and impudent attack on Ronan the Accuser. Ronan knocked him down rather quickly and decided to keep Rick around to be a "body slave." Shudder. But what if Ronan had decided otherwise and just killed Rick? What then? Well, long story short: things sort of turn out the same...but with a lot more effort and sweatier superheroes.

When Captain Marvel escapes his own bonds and learns of Rick's murder, well...he kind of goes a little funny in the head. Not even the eyesome Princess Annelle of the Skrull empire can assuage his rancor. Since the Super Skrull is the nearest enemy, Mar-Vell pretty much tears into him. Elsewhere in the heavens, the war between Kree and Skrull spills in towards Earth.

Earth's heroes respond! In a full court press that I have not seen since the Invasion! storyline of DC Comics, just about all major characters in the MCU charge to the planet's defense. In addition to the Avengers, we see the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, and even Doctor Doom flinging themselves once more into the breach, as the Bard might say. Thor goes to Asgard and enlists the aid of gods of that realm (I must say, it's pretty cool to see Viking longships cruise through space to attack spaceships.) The fighting is fierce but the alien enemies are repelled with no superhero casualties. An oddity for What If?

That is unless you count the burgeoning romance between The Vision and Scarlet Witch. Apparently the Vision of this timeline decided that he could not come between the sibling relationship of his intended and her brother, Quicksilver (no, not in that way. Perv.) So he backs off.

Captain Marvel, in a wacky turn of events, assumes the throne of the Skrull Empire and selects Annelle as his queen. A Kree? Ruling the Skrulls? What is the universe coming to? At least we get to see Captain Marvel set out to a full, happy life...which of course he does not get in the regular MCU.

What of Ronan the Accuser, the sick bastard whose slaying of Rick Jones brought about this alternate timeline? Well, recall that he kept the Kree Supreme Intelligence captive so that he (Ronan) might become undisputed ruler of the Kree. Well, the Supreme Intelligence absorbs the body of Rick Jones and then...evolves. It becomes a green, embryo-like entity resembling the Starchild from 2001. This new lifeform annihilates Ronan and then heads off to reflect and learn more about itself...and the universe it will "one day master." Ok then.

I must say it was an enjoyable issue. Writer Tom DeFalco took what was already a grand story arc and blew up to an even bigger scale with an attack on Earth. It was also perversely fun to see Captain Marvel finally lose it. I think had it coming to him.

So I'm done now with the Kree-Skrull War. No. Really I am this time.

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